The government is considering increasing the value of social
grants in order to soften the blow of high food prices, Health
Director General Thami Mseleku said on Tuesday. He was briefing
reporters at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on progress made by
the government social cluster.
"What we are then saying is that government is looking at whether
we could raise the social grants so that they could actually keep
the value with the increased food and fuel prices. That's one of
the measures being explored ... not to increase the number of
grants, but the value of grants."
This comes after the Congress of South African Trade Unions
indicated it was planning a strike on Wednesday to protest
against rising food, fuel and electricity prices.
Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who chaired the
meeting, said: "Poverty, hunger and malnutrition continue to
present serious challenges which have an impact on the health of
our people. This problem is now lately compounded by steep fuel
and food costs which make it increasingly difficult for our
people to access even basic foodstuffs."
The minister, who coughed several times during the briefing,
indicated that she had been admitted to a Johannesburg hospital
after contracting bronchitis and flu. She was discharged from
hospital on Tuesday.
Commenting on whether a national food-price regulator was being
considered, Mseleku said: "There is no intention yet to regulate
prices. We've emphasised that several times, that the measures
that we're looking at are not necessarily at this stage,
including price regulation."
Tshabalala-Msimang called on people to grow their own vegetables.
With regard to the progress made by the government's food task
team, she said: "We submitted a report to Cabinet and we're being
asked to do additional work, and the minister of agriculture is
convening a meeting this week and we will be finalising the
On the issue of reducing medicine costs, Tshabalala-Msimang said
she will meet the pharmaceutical pricing committee later this
month to discuss the matter.
Regarding regulation of the health sector, Mseleku said people's
health cannot be used as a commodity. "There is no price-fixing
in health ," he said.
On HIV and Aids, Tshabalala-Msimang said the number of adults who
voluntarily test for the virus has grown from 25% to 35%, and a
decrease in the number of people contracting tuberculosis (TB)
has been recorded.
She said the diagnosis of multidrug-resistant TB will be speeded
up as test results will now be processed within a week as opposed
to three or four months previously.
The minister announced that two new vaccines, against diarrhoea
and pneumonia respectively, will be given to babies to reduce
"We are going to provide these two vaccines that are being
finalised. We are in discussion with pharmaceutical companies
that produce these vaccines and in fact I think on the continent,
when we do produce those vaccines we'll be the first country to
do so," said Tshabalala-Msimang.